Ronin: The Wandering Warrior of Invoicing Web Apps?

roninMaybe it’s just because I was an English major, but the names people give to their web apps never cease to rouse my sense of curiosity. Hence my attraction to Ronin, which had me more eager to try out a new invoicing app than I ever have been in recent memory. It doesn’t hurt that it also happens to be monthly invoicing time, which I have come to dread like no other. Hopefully Ronin can help alleviate my terror.
At first glance, using the press demo supplied, it appears to be a very nicely put together web app. The UI is clean and pleasant, with a typical shades-of-gray-with-soft-edges Web 2.0 color scheme, and a blog-style navigation tree under the header. If I have to be making up invoices, at least I don’t have to be doing it via an ugly interface.
The dashboard is a dashboard in the true sense of the word. It presents the vast majority of important information you’d need on any given day in a very readable, intuitively laid-out style, while at the same time making sure that frivolous or infrequently used features don’t clutter up the space. Only recent invoices, clients and projects are visible via the dashboard, but convenient links under each subsection will direct you to your full lists.
Picture 19You can also quickly create new clients, projects or invoices with the click of a button, and a handful of helpful navigational links in the right sidebar give you access to more actions, and account and team information. Across the top, you get a quick breakdown of hours worked, unbilled hours, and your total invoices for the month.
Function and Features
Your client list can be as simple or as detailed as you’d like it to be. Personally, I prefer to keep things light for invoicing purposes, so I just enter an organization name and I’m through. If you want, though, you can enter detailed billing information, and additional profile information. This is probably very handy if you’re in a multi-user environment or could potentially be handing over your records to an employee.
Picture 20Each client can optionally be invited to login and view project and invoice details pertaining only to them, so that they can track what you’re invoicing live, instead of just receiving an end-of-month bill. It’s a nice feature, but one I have a feeling most of my clients wouldn’t ever bother taking advantage of.
Picture 22Projects and invoices offer similar customization options, with the option of tying projects to a client, though it isn’t required when setting them up. I appreciate that, because I do a lot of quick, one-off projects that don’t merit the time associated with setting up a new client profile. You can also select between a flat or hourly project rate, and edit the default currency, which is a great feature for web workers, who often work with international clients. When you’re invoicing, you just type basic client info directly into your form, saving time in the long run. On your invoice, you can customize everything you need to, including tax rates, issue and due date, invoice number, etc.
Ronin offers some very nice extra features that should appeal to web workers working alone or as part of a larger organization. You can easily add members to your staff, and Ronin takes care of all the administrative details, like setting up passwords and sending emails. You can also create recurring invoices and prepare estimates using the app, so it really is an end-to-end billing solution. The only thing I missed with Ronin was any kind of automated reports generation, which I would like to see to show client invoicing history.
Finally, you can optionally set up PayPal or integration, so that customers can pay their invoices directly using Ronin. This is a very nice plus for simplifying the billing process.
Cost and Conclusion
While Ronin does offer a free version, it’s a greatly hampered one. You can only have a maximum of two clients at any time, with one contact per client, and only a single staff user. PayPal and payment options also aren’t available on the free version. Paid plans range from $12 to $48 per month, and offer a lot more clients, contacts and staff users than the base plan. You’ll have to pay at least $24 per month for PayPal/ features, which is entirely reasonable given that it probably appeals mostly to established businesses, anyway.
Overall, Ronin is a very capable online invoicing app, and the free version could be a great option for independent freelancers who just need something that gets the job done quickly and easily, and can be accessed remotely from any computer. FreshBooks is still probably a more attractive option for most, but Ronin offers another option worthy of consideration, at the very least.
Have you tried Ronin? Let us know what you think of the app in the comments.